Atlanta, GA,
15:02 PM

Teacher Helps Students with Traumatic Injuries Return to School

Kelsey Shearman, MA, academic coordinator in Shepherd Center's Adolescent Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program, explains how she works with students to meet their academic goals.

Q: How long have you worked at Shepherd Center?
I have worked at Shepherd for three years as an academic coordinator in the Adolescent Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program. Prior to Shepherd, I was a public school teacher for four years, teaching middle school for two years and high school for two years.

Q: When we say “adolescent,” what do we mean?
My primary work is with kids aged 12 through around 19. I also do some work with college students up to age 23.

Q: Can you explain your role at Shepherd?
As an academic coordinator, I set up school services for students and teach them while they are inpatients at Shepherd or outpatients in our Spinal Cord Injury Day Program. I will see students four to six hours per week on a one-on-one basis. Close to discharge, we start doing a return-to-school planning process. We get students and their parents or caregivers comfortable, and we make sure their school is prepared for any new needs the student may have.

With college students I see, they come to me after they’ve withdrawn from school. We talk about what they are looking forward to with going back and what their school can help them with to overcome any challenges they may face when they return. I also help them sign up for accommodations.

While I usually work with students who have sustained spinal cord injuries, I do meet with families or caregivers of students with brain injuries to help coordinate getting their school records and passing that information along to their therapy team. I also provide guidance to families about medically withdrawing their loved ones from school until they are ready for school services again.

Q: What do you love most about your job?
I always seem to have great kids. They are so much fun. Understandably, not everyone is very excited that they’re at a hospital and have to go to school initially, but they all end up having a good attitude and being wonderful to work with. I’m so grateful I’m able to get to know them.

Q: Talk about how your role impacts patients and families.
When families get to Shepherd, they have so much on their plates. I want school to be the last thing they worry about or deal with. I tell parents they are welcome to be as involved as they want, but I will take care of everything school-related, so they don’t have to worry about it. I talk to the kids’ counselors and ask what classes are most important to graduate. I make sure I have all their assignments. If I don’t have assignments, I create them for the kids. We stay as up-to-date as possible, so they are on track for graduation when the student returns to school.

The kids are also happier because when they return to school, they are in the same grade level as their friends. They may have to make up some classes, but they can stay with their peers.

Kelsey's Education

  • Kelsey is a certified teacher.
  • University of Georgia Bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English
  • University of St Andrews Master’s degree in history
  • Kelsey is working on her Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Birmingham.

Fun Facts About Kelsey

  • Working with students has made Kelsey a pro at trivia. For example, she worked on an astronomy class with a student that included a video of a moon landing. Two days later, that same video showed up on “Jeopardy!” along with a question asking whose theory it proved. She immediately knew the answer was Galileo.
  • Kelsey enjoys participating in long-distance swimming races and sprint triathlons.
  • She loves to travel and has a goal to visit every continent. So far, she’s visited three.


Interview by Damjana Alverson

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.